The Los Angeles Lakers Just Ripped Off the Brooklyn Nets
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers committed the first big theft, er, I mean consummated the first big trade of NBA Draft week.
In a deal with Brooklyn that the New York Post, for reasons only they understand, called a blockbuster, the Lakers received former All-Star center Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in Thursday's draft, while the Nets took back former number-two pick D'Angelo Russell and center Timofey Mozgov.
The general belief amongst the NBA cognoscenti was that the Lakers won the trade for a variety of reasons: Offloading Russell opens up the starting point guard spot for now-likely Lakers draftee Lonzo Ball. Shedding Mozgov's contract -- you know, the four-year, $64 million albatross that still gives Lakers fans nightmares -- will make it easier for Magic Johnson et al to afford Paul George. And Lopez isn't a bad player.
D'Angelo Russell, however, is.
Or so says nERD.
For the uninitiated, nERD is numberFire's player ranking that measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of a season, based on their efficiency. (For a more detailed explanation, check out our glossary.) To offer up some context, the league average nERD is 0, and last season's nERD leader, Kawhi Leonard, racked up a 19.5 mark.
Russell's nERD was a paltry -5.4.
Admittedly, nERD doesn't tell the whole story, but it has to make the Lakers fan base feel a bit better about moving a 21-year-old in exchange for a 29-year-old who's entering his 10th year in the league.
But here's the thing about that 29-year-old: Dude can play.
Last season, the Nets all-time leading scorer averaged 20.5 points a night, making him the third-highest scoring center in the Association behind DeMarcus Cousins (27.0) and Karl-Anthony Towns (25.1). Even more impressively, Lopez finished the year tied for seventh in blocks per game (1.65) with third-team All-NBA-er DeAndre Jordan.
However, all wasn't rosy in Lopez Land.
In his 75 games, he had the worst rebounding season of his career, managing only 5.4 boards, as compared to his career average of 7.1. According to StatMuse, Lopez posted the worst rebound percentage among centers with at least 2,000 minutes played, with 9.6. However, StatMuse also tells us that Brook's new frontcourt buddy, Julius Randle, compiled a 16.3 rebound percentage, so all should be fine in the L.A. paint.
As for Russell, in terms of per-36 minutes stats, the Nets' incumbent starting point guard, Jeremy Lin is a somewhat more attractive option.
Considering that Lin finished 2016-17 with a respectable nERD rating of 0.6, these digits shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
Russell does have a couple factors in his favor: Age and money. Lin is six years older, and Russell is still on his reasonable rookie deal ($5.5 million in 2017-18, $7 million in 2018-19, $9.1 million in 2019-20), while Lin is in the second year of a three-year, $38 million deal that will earn him $12 million this season, and $12.5 million next. Lin wins the stats battle, but Russell gets the edge in mileage and affordability, so let's call it a wash.
It's been said time and again that when it comes to a trade, the team who lands the best player is the winner. Not only did the new Los Angeles Lakers front office regime of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka steal the best player, but they gave the Nets a redundant one, as well a substandard center with a horrible contract.
And they pulled off the robbery in broad daylight.